Professor Kevin Fenton

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, discusses ways to get every adult active every day.

Next month sees the eyes of the world turn to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. Images of the world’s leading athletes competing for gold will be broadcast across the world. Major sporting events like this can help motivate more people to take part in sport and to start thinking about their own physical activity.

If medals were handed out to the nations with the highest population levels of physical activity then unfortunately England, and Team GB as a whole, would leave empty handed.

One in four women and one in five men in England are physically inactive, doing less than 30 minutes moderate physical activity a week.​​

How active are we? infographic

This is well below the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, set out in guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers. The guidelines also recommend muscle strengthening activities twice a week, but only 34% of men and 24% of women are achieving this.

So why are so many adults struggling to be physically active?  Many people equate physical activity to sweaty gym sessions, and are put off by this, and do not realise that moderate physical activity can be achieved through everyday life through activities such as:

  • brisk walking
  • dancing
  • cycling
  • gardening

As long as the activity causes you to get warmer and breathe harder and for your heart to beat faster then it counts as moderate physical activity.

Any physical activity is better than none. As little as 10 minutes of moderate physical activity at a time provides numerous health benefits.

Physical activity can help to prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

What are the health benefits of physical activity? inforgraphic

Persuading inactive people  to become more active could prevent one in ten cases of stroke and heart disease in the UK and one in six deaths from any cause. In fact it’s often said that if physical activity was a drug it would be classed as a wonder drug.

That’s why the latest strategy from Sport England focuses, for the first time, on encouraging inactive and underrepresented groups to become more active. This is where the greatest individual, community and economic gains can be made.

PHE’s national physical activity framework, Everybody Active Every Day, identifies four areas for local and national action that can help to get people active.

1. Active Society

People are more likely to be active if it is seen as ‘normal’, and if their friends and peers are also active.

2. Moving professionals

1 in 4 patients would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse.

3. Active environments

Our homes, workplaces and local environments should be designed to encourage physically active.

4. Moving at scale

Positive change needs to happen at every level, in every region and be measurable.

Read the physical activity edition of Health Matters for more on what local authorities and health professionals can do to get the nation active.

You can also visit the Health Matters collection page to view previous editions and to sign up to the e-bulletin.